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(2016 - Spring/Summer Issue)


Passion runs deep with award-winning actor Tantoo Cardinal: passion for her family, the indigenous culture, her 40-year successful acting career and for Mother Earth. 

Of Métis descent, Cardinal was born in Fort McMurray and grew up in Anzac, Alberta. She has appeared in more than 100 film and television projects and has won numerous Canadian and international awards including a Gemini, Leo, ACTRA Award of Excellence and American Indian Film Festival Best Actress Award. In 2009 she was made a Member of the prestigious Order of Canada in recognition of her valuable contributions to the growth and development of aboriginal performing arts in Canada. 

She has appeared in many films including Dances with Wolves (with Kevin Costner), Legends of the Fall (Brad Pitt), Black Robe and Loyalties as well as in popular television series including Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Lonesome Dove, Arctic Air, Blackstone, Gunsmoke, Street Legal and many more.  

Her strong beliefs respecting the land and indigenous culture have carried over to many roles she has played over the years. Cardinal has lobbied hard to raise the profile of aboriginal artists and the roles they play. A mother of three adult children and now a grandmother, Cardinal is as busy as ever with acting roles, activist pursuits and is now embarking on a new journey—writing.  


What’s the biggest risk you ever took?

Risk is an ongoing thing. Being in the arts is a risk. I like to say I “travel on the wind” so I never know where I might wind up. I can say taking a trip to San Francisco in 1977/78 was a big risk but it was really important because it broke a certain “fear shell.” To be an actor has been about taking that inner journey and finding those places where there is a shell covering up something you need for a character or for an experience and sometimes it’s scary going into that. I think being an artist is very brave. 

Do you have a travel experience you cherish?

Following the premiere of Dances with Wolves I was invited, along with (actor) Graham Greene and his new bride Hilary Blackmore, by Tewa Evans to the U.S. Virgin Islands for a few days. It was amazingly beautiful! The white sand, the tropics, a private beach—it was heaven. It reminded me of Manitoulin Island. It was a most wonderful few days.

Do you have a favourite destination?

It’s about the people. I’ve never been one for the prairies necessarily but it’s a beautiful place because of the people I know there. When I returned to Ecuador it was about how the people live on their land that was interesting.

Do you have a dream destination?

Well I just missed out. I wanted to go to Hawaii and my friend had a plane ticket and we had a place to stay and then work came along and I couldn’t do it. I had to go to Newfoundland instead in February!  

What do you like to do on holidays?

If I do have a holiday, it’s a day. I’ve never had a “holiday.” It just wasn’t part of the psychology of where I grew up. For me, it’s an opportunity to do things you don’t normally get a chance to do, to be with friends.  

What’s your travel pet peeve?

People at the airport jamming right up to the baggage carousel. It would serve everybody better if they would just stand two feet back so people can see their luggage. 

Is there something you always pack when travelling?

Other than my laptop, it depends on the project and where I am in preparation for my grounding. Sometimes I’ll take a piece of clothing or a piece of jewellery, something that helps ground me in whatever work it is I’m going to do.

Best Western
San Antonio
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